It’s Chrismas in July at St. John’s UCC

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Bulletin for Sunday, July 25, 2021 (Christmas in July!)

WELCOME TO

ST. JOHN’S UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

223 West College Avenue, Bluffton, OH   45817

July 25, 2021

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

 Rev. Katherine Beckett (567-226-1009)  Church (419-358-5641)

E-mail:      blufftonstjohnsucc@gmail.com

Website:    www.blufftonstjohns.com

______________________________

No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!

Prelude      “Love Came Down at Christmas/Still, Still, Still”

Welcome

Poem             It Was to the Old Folk that Jesus Came+

*Call to Worship

One:      Light looked down and saw darkness

Many:   I will go there, said the Light

One:      Peace looked down and saw war.

 Many:   I will go there, said Peace

One:      Love looked down and saw hatred

Many:    I will go there, said Love

One:      So, he, the Lord of Light, the Prince of Peace, the King of Love came down and crept in beside us.

*Hymn    “O Come, All Ye Faithful”                                   P. 182

Reading        Once in Judah’s Least Known City+

Hymn    “Angels We Have Heard on High”                     P. 188

Hebrew Testament Reading                                  Isaiah 52:7-10

Epistle Reading                                                       Hebrews 1:1-12

Hymn    “Were You There on That Christmas Night”    P. 215

Gospel Reading                                                       John 1:1-14

*Litany of Incarnation

One:         When the time was right, God sent the Son.

Women:  Sent him and suckled him

Men:         reared him and risked him

Women:  filled him with laughter and tears and compassion

Men:         filled him with anger and love and devotion

One:         Unwelcomed child, refugee, and runaway

Many:       Christ is God’s own son

One:         Feeder and teacher, healer, and antagonist

Many:       Christ is God’s own son

One:         Lover of the unlovable, toucher of the untouchable,

      forgiver of the unforgivable

Many:       Christ is God’s own son

One:         Loved by women, feared by men, befriended by the

      weak, despised by the strong, deserted by his listeners,

      betrayed by his friends, bone of our bone, flesh of our

      flesh, writing heaven’s pardon over earth’s mistakes,

Many:       Christ is God’s own son

One:         The Word became flesh.

Many:       He came among us; he was one of us.

*Hymn    “What Child Is This”                                            P. 184

Pastoral Prayer

*Closing Hymn    “Joy to the World”                                P. 179

*Benediction

Announcements

*Postlude “Born Is He, The Divine Christ Child”  arr. Patricia Harris

___________________________________________________

+From Cloth for the Cradle by Wild Goose Worship Group

*Please stand if you are able.

Welcome to St. John’s as you join us for “Christmas in July!”  It is our hope that you will gain inspiration from this special worship service commemorating Jesus’ birth.

The flowers this morning are presented to the glory of God by Connie and Larry Kempf in honor of Dorothy Balmer’s 95th birthday which is today.  Dorothy is Connie’s aunt.

The family of George McCune sends its heartfelt thanks to Pastor Katherine for her visits and kindness during George’s illness and passing, and to Sue Hardwick who served as organist at the memorial service.  Also, thank you to everyone at St. John’s for your cards and prayers.  Your caring expressions are appreciated deeply by our family.  God bless all of you!  –Sara McCune

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Are you feeling WILD in this season of long days, lightning bugs, and summer blooms?  Would you like to explore what Mary Oliver calls your one wild and precious life?  Come, join a circle of women writing for a morning of leaning into the wildness of one’s heart and soul.  Women are invited to circle on Saturday, July 31 from 10 a.m. to noon, at St. John’s UCC.  Circle is hosted by Katherine Beckett and Corrie Reed.  If you have any questions, or to register, please see Pastor Katherine.  Registration is limited to 15 people.  Cost is $10.00.

Attendance for Sunday, July 18 was 41 persons.

This Week at St. John’s:

Tuesday, July 27—Excellence in Ministry, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

                                                at St. John’s UCC

                                    Ladies meet at Arby’s, 10 a.m.

Wednes., July 28—Men meet at Arby’s, 8:30 a.m.

Saturday, July 31—Women’s Writing Circle, 10 a.m. to noon,

                                                Oppermann Hall

Love Came Down at Christmas

Love came down at Christmas,     Love shall be our token;

Love all lovely, Love divine            Love be yours and love be mine;

Love was born at Christmas;         Love to God and neighbor;

Star and angels gave the sign.      Love for plea and gift and sign.

Worship we the God head,             –Christina Rossetti, alt.

Love incarnate, Love divine;             From:  “Worship and Rejoice”

Worship we our Jesus,                               Hymn #210

But wherewith for sacred sign?

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God’s Abundant Presence John 6:1-21

The story of the “loaves and fishes” is one of the most beloved of all Bible stories. The hungry crowds, the presence of children, the abundance left over–it is easy to get pulled into the warmth and joy of this story.

Some say that the feeding of the people that day was one kind of miracle (Jesus made the food appear). Some say it was another kind (the crowd was so moved that they began sharing what they had previously hoarded). Whatever it was, the feeding that occurred was immediate and specific to the situation and responsive to a tremendous and obvious need.

For centuries, the church has been moved to feed people in the same way that the story illustrates in all kinds of situations and conditions. When the COVID pandemic made serving food in person risky, that did not change, even if the method of food distribution had to.

The Faith Cafe, an ecumenical partnership with Bethel United Church of Christ in Beaverton, Oregon, and other churches in the area is one great example. Faith Cafe describes itself as a partnership of communities who in love, compassion, and justice, are dedicated to serving neighbors who are hungry for community and food.

“We accomplish this by sharing a free meal, as a family, and advocating for long term social changes that will reduce poverty and hunger…Each person who comes to Faith Cafe is a blessing to us and it is a privilege for us to serve them.”

That posture of humility and gratitude for the ability to serve meant that Faith Cafe was ready and able to pivot to a new way of service when COVID-19 sent the church, along with the rest of the community, into quarantine.

Rather than a hot meal, the weekly Faith Cafe became a to-go counter, with food distributed in sacks that could be taken away. As their food needs were met, and they were treated safely and with respect, Faith Cafe guests were fed body and soul.

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Worship Service Sunday, July 18, 2021

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Bulletin for Sunday, July 18, 2021

WELCOME TO

ST. JOHN’S UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

223 West College Avenue, Bluffton, OH   45817

July 18, 2021

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

 Rev. Katherine Beckett (567-226-1009)  Church (419-358-5641)

E-mail:      blufftonstjohnsucc@gmail.com

Website:    www.blufftonstjohns.com

______________________________

No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!

Prelude   “When Morning Gilds the Skies”         arr. Rex Koury

Welcome

*Song of Preparation  “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”       P. 549

*Call to Worship

One:   The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.

Many: It is a small seed that has many surprises

 in store for us.

One:    When it is grown, it is a very large shrub.
Many: Even birds can find places in its branches for nests.

One:    God’s transforming love begins in small ways to

 enter our hearts.

Many: Holy One, plant those amazing seeds of transforming

 love in us that they may grow into deeds of service in

 your name.

*Prayer of Confession

Ever faithful God, who always watches over us, be with us

all these days. We confess that we have allowed a host of

worries and frustrations to crowd out your word for us. As you

give us peace and your transforming love, also forgive all

those times when we have been less than faithful disciples.

Gently visit us again with your healing powers. Restore our

hope and courage and joy for all the times ahead. We ask this

in the name of the Great Physician, Jesus Christ. AMEN.

*Words of Assurance

*Hymn         “Christ, You Call Us All to Service”               P. 571

Time with the Children

Prayer for Illumination (based on John 12:21)

Holy God, we wish to see Jesus.  Through your Spirit’s power, give us eyes to see his glory.  Through Christ we pray.  Amen

Hebrew Testament Reading                      1 Kings 3:5-12

By the time of Solomon, Gibeon had become a major Israelite

worship site.  Dreams and nocturnal visions are an extremely

important way to receive revelation during this time period.

Gospel Reading                                         Matthew 13:31-32

One:   Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

Many: Thanks be to God!

Sermon         “The Smallest Seeds”         Rev. Katherine Beckett

*Hymn     “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God”                    P. 349

Pastoral Prayer and Lord’s Prayer 

Blessing for the Journey of Crystal Sellers Battle and Family

*Closing Hymn “Go Now in Peace, Though Friends Must Part”   P. 717

*Benediction

(Please be seated)

Announcements

Chime Interlude

Postlude  “When in Our Music God Is Glorified”  arr. Edward Broughton

*Please stand if you are able.

Welcome to worship at St. John’s this morning!  May Christ “dwell in your hearts through faith,” and may you “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:17-18, NIV).  “Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible and receives the impossible.”   Corrie ten Boom

Following worship today, please join us for a “sending forth”  reception for Crystal Sellers Battle and family.  Crystal served as our choir director for nine years, and we will miss her presence with us.

Are you feeling WILD in this season of long days, lightning bugs, and summer blooms?  Would you like to explore what Mary Oliver calls your one wild and precious life?  Come, join a circle of women writing for a morning of leaning into the wildness of one’s heart and soul.  Women are invited to circle on Saturday, July 31 from

10 a.m. to noon, at St. John’s UCC.  Circle is hosted by Katherine Beckett and Corrie Reed.  If you have any questions, or to register, please see Pastor Katherine.  Registration is limited to 15 people.  Cost is $10.00.

This Sunday evening Vacation Bible School begins at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and continues through Thursday evening July 22.  St. John’s herders for the sessions should check with Marci Stahl if there are questions.

Sunday, July 25, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., you are invited to attend Music in the Park. The event takes place at Westminster Park, 6825 Faulkner Road, Harrod, Ohio.  For further details, check the poster on the sanctuary bulletin board.

The July-August issues of The Upper Room are lost in the mail.  A new shipment has been requested and should arrive within a week.  Please check the devotional racks next Sunday for your copy.

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Wherever You Are 2 Samuel 7:1-14a

Today’s scripture tells the story of the Ark of the Covenant, the holy place where scripture was kept (and kept moving) in ancient times. The ark helped the people to see that God’s Word was on the move. Like our ancestors, our modern interpretation of and witness to God is not confined to our church buildings.

For example, pastor Oby Ballinger of Edina Morningside Community Church in Edina, Minnesota, was heartbroken at the unnecessary discomfort caused to those who lost access to a driver’s license due to the immigration status. He took the good news out of the church building, and into his local legislature, delivering the following message of faith and justice:

“…In my ministry I have seen the grief and loss caused when a driver’s license is taken away. Without a license, one person has to settle for the minimum wage job that’s within walking distance. Another has lost the freedom to attend worship or get groceries independently. Children become chaperones as their parents talk about the loss of dignity that comes without a license. None of these people are new to Minnesota, but theirs is the experience of any immigrant who was here when drivers’ licenses were taken away, causing untold grief, job-loss, and harm to human decency.

We start worship every Sunday by saying, “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” We do so not because it’s a politically-correct, warm-and-fuzzy thing to say. We do so because the God we follow and serve has made all people welcome, has made us welcome, and has called us to offer that welcome to every person in Christ’s name. Like Jesus, we believe each person is made in the image of God with creativity, purpose and joy, regardless of what they look like, where they were born, or what boundaries they have crossed or stayed inside. Indeed, our Savior broke laws and fearful customs that denied God’s image in others by denying them health, dignity, and safety. He healed on the Sabbath, ate with the disrespected, spoke with outcasts, and cared for those who were not like him. Christ taught us that the greatest commandment–the purpose of all the other laws–is to love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.

It is past time to restore the right to drive to immigrants who bear the image of God just as you and I do. The current law must change, so that the higher law of honoring God’s image in each person can be fulfilled. “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” God has made it so; let us follow.”

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From the Pastor’s Pen

            The recent heat has reminded us all that summer has arrived.  Summer is often thought of as a time to slow down, take a break, go on vacation.  Church life tends to slow down as well, not as many activities are scheduled.  The Church is in the long season between Pentecost and Advent, sometimes referred to as Time for the Church or Ordinary Time.

            Time for the Church or Ordinary time is a season of growth.  You may have noticed that the altar cloth and the pulpit and lectern covers are green.  The color green symbolizes life, hope and anticipation. 

            This season is a good time to focus on our spiritual life.  Spending time with God is an important part of our faith.  There are many different ways we can go about this. We can, and probably should, start by engaging with God in small increments.  We often want to start out “big” and try to commit to spending an hour in prayer or reading an entire book of the Bible at once.  And when we fail to follow through, we give up.

            But just like athletes need to start out training slowly, we need to delve into our spiritual practices slowly.  A runner does not start out by running a marathon on the first day.  They start out slow and build up.  And in the process of starting out slow, they may discover that sprinting is better suited for them.  Or maybe the hurdles.  Or the pole vault. Or swimming.

            We may find that our time with God is more fulfilling by using a different practice than what we keep trying to do.  Many years ago (I am thinking about 20 but I may be wrong) I participated in a multi-week look at different prayer practices.  We experienced prayer in many different forms.  Some worked well for me; some not so much.  Visio Divina, praying through a visual such as an icon or picture, and drumming, there is something so primal about drumming, were the two that have stuck with me along my journey.

            It is not simply different practices that help us engage with God.  Ordinary things like cooking, baking, gardening done with the intentionality of being with God can do so.  In one of my prior churches, a deeply spiritual man in the congregation who was a farmer told me that his time spent working in the fields was also time spent with God.  He turned his work into a prayer practice.

            Spend this summer finding what helps you spend time with God.  The options are limitless.  If you would like to talk about it more, let me know.

                                                Pastor Katherine

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Calling All Musicians

If you would like to furnish special music, or if you have suggestions of persons to offer for special music, please contact the church office at 419-358-5641.

Music is a very important part of the worship services, and we would appreciate everyone’s assistance in helping us to provide this offering in the absence of our choir members.

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Celebrating Our Graduates

Congratulations to all of the grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends of members of our congregation who have finished their course work in high schools and universities across the nation.

Congratulations, also, to Bluffton High School graduates who persevered through a challenging 2020-21 school year! Their positive spirit and determination will serve them well in years to come.

May God’s hand continue to guide each graduate as they embark on their journeys through life.

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” — Fred Rogers

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Summer Hours for Sunday School and Worship

On Sunday, June 6, St. John’s begins its summer hours which continue through Labor Day Sunday, September 5: Sunday School begins at 9 a.m., and Worship begins at 10 a.m.

Please give yourself a reminder so that you will arrive on time!

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